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Survival Tips for Loving an Addict

Updated: Aug 9, 2021

Coming face-to-face with reality

Coming face-to-face with reality means accepting that parts of your life may be out of control due to loving someone who is engaging in addictive behaviors. These addictions can include mind-altering substances such as drugs and alcohol and mood-altering addictions such as eating disorders, compulsive overspending, smoking, being "glued" to the internet, gambling, or codependency in relationships.

You may be feeling a constant, gnawing worry that you live with every day. You may find yourself being asked for money often and feeling guilty if you say no. Perhaps you are watching everything you say and do to "keep the peace" in your home and not make the addict angry. Or you may be asked to do favors for the addict consistently, such as watching their children or doing their errands, and you may not know how to say no.

Whatever your particular situation is, accepting what you are dealing with in your life is the first survival tip for loving an addicted person.

Discover how to love an addicted person — and stay healthy.

There are effective ways to deal with the addicted person in your life, just as there are ways that are not only ineffective but can also be dangerous. Learning to distinguish between them can save you a lot of time and produce much healthier results for you and your addicted loved one.

For example, learning how to set and maintain appropriate boundaries is essential. You may need to explore why you have a problem doing that and then learn some assertiveness techniques that will help you say "yes" when you mean yes, and "no" when you mean no.

Another way to keep yourself healthy while caring about an addicted person is to make sure you are looking after your own life and maintain the right balance with work or volunteering, supportive friendships, fitness, good nutrition, and time for fun activities to enjoy.

Choose to practice the healthier ways of loving your addicted person.

You cannot control or "fix" another person, so stop trying!

The only person you have any control over is yourself. You do not have control over anything the addicted person does. Many people choose not to believe this, but that doesn't make it any less real. Once you can grasp this concept's reality and live by it, your life will become more manageable.

The Serenity Prayer can give you a helpful gauge to see whether you are trying to control people and situations that you cannot control.

God, grant me the Serenity

To accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Cultivate your wisdom so that you know the difference between what you can and can't change and stop trying to control or "fix" anyone other than yourself.

Stop blaming the other person and become willing to look at yourself.

As easy and tempting as it may be for you to blame the addict in your life for your struggles and suffering, there is more value in exploring what you may be contributing to this situation since that is the only thing you can do anything about.

Though the addict has contributed their share of the trouble, you also have a part to play in what is happening. For example, you might be keeping the "drama" going by lending money to your addicted loved one. Or perhaps you are always willing to be there to listen when they tell you all about the problems they are encountering as consequences of their addictive behaviors.

These kinds of actions on your part will not help your loved one in the long run. It is your responsibility to recognize and "own" your unhelpful behaviors and to get professional help in doing this if necessary.

Understanding why you choose to behave in unhealthy ways is the key to making a change. Become courageous enough to be willing to look at yourself.

Learn the difference between "helping" and "enabling."

Like most people, you might think you need to help your addicted loved one. You probably fear that if you don't provide help, he or she will end up in a worse predicament. When you try to "help" addicts by giving them money, allowing them to stay in your home, buying food for them regularly, driving them places, or going back on the boundaries you have already set, you are engaging in "rescuing" behaviors that are not helpful. Another term for this kind of unhealthy helping is "enabling."

When you can be as truthful as possible about your own enabling behaviors, you can begin making different choices. This will lead to healthier changes in your addicted loved one as well. For example, you might decide to tell the addict in your life that you will no longer listen to them complain about their lives. However, you can let them know that you are very willing to be there for them as soon as they are ready to work on resolving their problems.

Once you stop your enabling behaviors, you can begin to help your loved one truly.

Don't give in to manipulation.

It has been said that the least favorite word for an addict to hear is "No." When addicts are not ready to change, they become master manipulators to keep the addiction going. Their fear of stopping is so great that they will do just about anything to keep from having to be honest with themselves. Some of these manipulations include lying, cheating, blaming, raging, and guilt-tripping others, as well as becoming depressed or developing other kinds of emotional or physical illnesses.

The more you allow yourself to be manipulated by the addict, the more manipulative the addict will become. When you hold your ground and refuse to give in to their unreasonable demands, they will eventually realize that they will not get their way.

Saying "no" is an essential first step toward change — for you, as well as for the addict.

Ask yourself the "Magic Question."

It is important to understand that you might be just as "addicted" to your enabling behaviors as the addict in your life is to his or her manipulations.

In the same way that addicts use drugs, alcohol, and other addictive behaviors to avoid dealing with their shame about feeling unworthy and unlovable, you may be focusing on the addict's behavior to avoid having to focus on living your own life. Your enabling behaviors toward the addict may help keep you busy and fill up your life so that you don't have to see how lonely and empty you are feeling inside.

Ask yourself the question, "How would my life be better if I wasn't consumed by behaviors that enable my loved one?" Allow yourself to answer honestly, and be aware of any feelings that come up.

Although it may be scary to think about giving up behaviors that have formed your "comfort zone," it may be even more frightening for you to think about continuing them.

Know that "Self-care" does not equal "selfish."

Too many people get these two ideas confused: they think that if they practice healthy self-care and put themselves first, they are selfish. "Selfishness" basically means that you want what you want when you want it, and you are willing to step on whomever you have to to get it. That sounds more like the behavior of the addict. If you try to take care of someone else before taking care of yourself, you will become depleted and exhausted.

"Self-caring" means that you respect yourself enough to take good care of yourself in healthy and holistic ways, such as making sure your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs are met.

As an adult, it is your job to determine your needs, and you are the only one responsible for meeting them.

Rebuild your own life.

The best way to come out of your own "addictive behaviors," such as enabling and people-pleasing, is to focus on your own life. If your life seems empty in any areas such as career, relationships, or self-care, begin to rebuild your life by exploring the kinds of things that might fulfill you. Would you like to make a career change or go back to school? Perhaps you would like to develop different hobbies or activities to meet new people.

Rebuilding your life so that you feel a greater sense of happiness and self-fulfillment is your most crucial over-all responsibility. Enjoy!

Don't wait until the situation is awful ~ reach out for help NOW!!

When those who love people with any addictive behavior finally reach out for help, they have usually dealt with their situation for a long time. If you have been waiting to see whether things would get better without professional help, please consider getting help NOW, before things become even worse.

If this situation is just beginning for you, it is best to get some support as soon as possible to avoid making mistakes that could make things more difficult.

The sooner you reach out for help, the better it is for everyone concerned.

Courtesy: Candace Plattor, M.A., R.C.C.

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